Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

China carbon emissions may have peaked already
As Australia’s carbon emissions continue to grow, a new study has predicted that China’s will likely peak before 2025 – five years ahead of schedule and five years ahead of Australia’s 2030 target of cutting emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels.

Energy and Climate Change

EU open to increasing 2030 carbon target, says top climate negotiator
Europe’s chief climate negotiator has said he is open to increasing the EU’s carbon target for 2030, in a backdown by the European commission. Last week, the commission ruled out any increase in the bloc’s target of cutting emissions by 40% by 2030 on 1990 levels, sparking an outcry from several countries and green groups.

Researchers Discover Predictability Of Unpredictable Wind Energy
A team of researchers, led by Professor Mahesh M. Bandi of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), published findings in the journal New Journal of Physics, revealing that, counter to what was previously thought, wind farms connected to the grid saw power outputs fluctuate in similar ways.

Tasmania’s crazy lurch back into the (expensive) fossil fuel era
AUSTRALIA – Only just recently, Tasmania – courtesy of its rich hydro resources, excellent wind conditions, and even a little bit of sunshine – could boast of being 100 per cent renewable, with all the economic possibilities that could afford in a world rapidly transitioning to a low-carbon economy… Not anymore. Due to a combination of bad luck and rotten planning, old school thinking and – guess what – climate change, Tasmania has found itself with little water in its dams to generate hydro electricity, no power link to the mainland, bushfires shutting down generators, and not enough renewables to fill the gap.
See also: Tasmania battles to keep lights on with cloud-seeding and diesel generators

Environment and Biodiversity

Sydney, so hot right now: what’s behind the city’s record run of warm weather?
Sydney is hot. Well technically, it’s persistently warm and lacking cool outbreaks, but this run of weather is no less remarkable for that. The city has had a record 31 straight days above 26℃ (and counting), smashing the previous record of 19 days in a row set in 2014. Nights have also been unusually warm, with only two nights in February dropping below 19℃ (equalling the record set in 2003 and 1983).

Chasing ice: how ice cores shape our understanding of ancient climate
It is just over 50 years since French scientist Claude Lorius dropped some glacier ice in his whisky and started a quest that continues today. Lorius was studying glaciers in Antarctica and wondered if the air bubbling out of some ice he had drilled that day might carry information from the past. The answer to that question was “yes”. We now know that ice cores carry a rich archive of past information in the bubbles and the ice itself.

Anesco partners with RSPB to boost solar farm birds and bees
Energy services firm Anesco has teamed up with wildlife charity the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to encourage more wild animals to settle at its solar sites across the UK. The new partnership, announced today, will see RSPB work with Anesco to develop a set of recommendations to ensure its solar farms offer the best environment to support some of the UK’s most threatened bird, insect, and small animal species.

The buffalo hunt: a Native American photographer joins the cull
Every winter the small town of Gardiner, Montana, welcomes Native American tribal members from around the Inland Northwest. Hospitality businesses are happy to see them arrive during the off-season, but they’re not the only ones – ranchers are thrilled. The tribal members are there to hunt American bison (or buffalo) that wander out of Yellowstone national park to find forage during winter.

Ugly Australian mammals attract little scientific interest, study finds
In a study published in the Mammal Review journal, researchers found despite ugly animals making up 45 per cent of native fauna, they received minimal scientific attention. Literature on 331 Australian mammal species was reviewed and then grouped into three categories – the ‘good’, which includes iconic species such as kangaroos, echidnas, koalas; the ‘bad’, which includes invasive species like rabbits, cats and foxes and the ‘ugly’, which includes species such as bats and rodents.

Economy and Business

Australian coal v renewables: how much will it cost to bring electricity to India’s poor?
The Australian government continues to claim that coal will play a vital role in bringing cheap energy to developing nations. In particular, it’s claimed India’s poor will benefit from the development of coal reserves in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. But is that really the case? In our recent research, my colleagues and I tested claims that coal will help India’s poor, relative to the impact of alternative, renewable energy sources. We found that when you add up all the costs and benefits of coal – including positives such as jobs, and adverse impacts such as those on health – renewable energy is cheaper.

The multimillion dollar palm oil deal we should all be worried about
It’s a multimillion dollar tie-up that you’ve heard little about, but could have major implications for the drive towards a more responsible palm oil sector.  After several weeks of speculation, it is expected that Malaysian state-owned commodities company Felda is about to conclude negotiations on the acquisition of a 37% stake in palm oil company PT Eagle High Plantations.

We Mean Business statement on a Net-Zero target for the UK
We encourage the government to legislate for a long-term goal of net-zero emissions for the UK as a whole, reflecting the agreement it made with other governments in Paris at COP21. Each of us has made a public commitment to set a GHG emissions reduction or renewable energy use target for our own organisation which is consistent with the long term temperature goal in the Paris… We have done this because it makes business sense and because we want to ensure long-term sustainability and profitability.

These Old-School Companies Are Going Big With Solar and Wind
Guess which company bought the most clean energy last year? Yes, no surprise, Google. The tech behemoth still dominates when it comes to wind and solar, but it’s now being joined by other corporate titans, some decades old and far from Silicon Valley.

Green technology could mitigate environmental impacts of Heathrow expansion
UK – Technological advancements will mitigate the environmental impacts, such as noise and air pollution, of the controversial third runway developed at Heathrow, a new report from the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has found.

Landcorp bows to pressure to halt dairy conversions
NEW ZEALAND – Environmental and financial pressures have forced Landcorp and Wairakei Estates owners to abandon contentious forest to dairy conversions. The amount of capital invested in the project is expected to be approximately $25-35 million lower than originally planned, Landcorp said. Recently New Zealand’s largest farmer forecast an $8-9m loss for the 2015-16 year, largely because of lower dairy prices. Freshwater ecologist Dr Mike Joy welcomed the move as a significant win for the environment.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Loose Parts Play at Lyons School uses junk from the shed for play-based learning
AUSTRALIA – A Canberra teacher has encouraged parents to give the toy shop a miss and find some loose parts for their children to play with. Lyons Early Childhood School (LECS) teacher Jackie Neill runs Loose Parts Play, a program which substitutes traditional toys with items such as old steering wheels, letter boxes, tiles, timber and bicycle parts.

‘Fast fashion’: Student’s life with 50 items of clothing makes statement
A Sunshine Coast University PhD student has culled her wardrobe to a maximum of 50 items to make a statement about ‘fast fashion’. Pam Greet said the idea to cull her clothing came after a trip to Buenos Aires. “I was travelling for six weeks with all of my stuff in a little carry-on bag,” she said. “I thought, ‘if I could do this for six weeks, how great it would be to be able to do it for 12 months and not have to think about what I’m going to wear’.”

Politics and Society

What we can learn from listening to nature – Big Ideas
Trying to record birdsong in the pre-dawn darkness, Andrew Skeoch realised how few of us get a chance to really listen to nature. Now he’s a champion of natural soundscapes, and believes they can teach us much about beauty and even the evolution of life.

Euthanasia: more options doesn’t always expand our freedoms, sometimes it limits them
The recognition of individual autonomy was a gradual achievement that occurred in some spheres earlier than others (as recently as 1997, homosexual sex was a criminal offence in Tasmania). Many people see voluntary euthanasia as the last frontier in the gradual extension of autonomy… In the well-worn debate over PAS, one consideration hasn’t got the attention I think it deserves. Intuitively, we believe offering someone options automatically expands their freedom. But that isn’t always true. Sometimes more options can lead to less freedom.

Ed Miliband calls for law to make CO2 emissions target legally binding
UK – Ed Miliband has assembled a group of cross-party MPs and campaigners to demand parliament enacts a law to to make the carbon emissions target agreed at the Paris climate talks legally binding. The former Labour leader – alongside Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, Green MP Caroline Lucas and two Conservative MPs – has called for legislation that would significantly extend the present UK target of cutting emissions by 80% by 2050.

Feebate could hit ‘gas guzzlers’ and encourage electric vehicle use: report
NEW ZEALAND – Importing a gas guzzler could get costly if a suggestion to encourage electric vehicle use catches on. A feebate would involve either fees or rebates for light vehicles, depending on the level of their greenhouse gas emissions. It’s one of the measures suggested in a University of Waikato research report by Barry Barton and Peter Schuette, which looks at how to get more Kiwis into electric cars.

Built Environment

What is a smart city?
Sophisticated technology – with sensors, data mining, analytics – is growing exponentially and allowing us to fundamentally change the we connect and deliver services, among citizens, business and government agencies. Here’s a look at what we mean by smart cities and how some of the world’s leading cities are jumping into the future.

Food Systems

Bananas facing a bleak future as staple African crops decline
Climate change will leave swaths of sub-Saharan Africa unable to produce staple crops such as maize, bananas and beans by the end of the century, according to a report that calls for an urgent transformation of the region’s agriculture.


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